19-year-old Granger Korff during his two-year service in South Africa’s 1 Parachute Battalion, 1980-81. He was part of several major SADF cross-border actions, including Operations Protea, Daisy and Carnation. His downtime actions were also infamous, such as his severe beating of a sergeant-major in front of fellow soldiers and “several fistfights with Drug Squad agents over missing Sossi (morphine)”. His skill in the boxing ring led him to Los Angeles after the war, where he became a sparring partner and drinking buddy with the likes of Jake LaMotta, Ike Turner and Mickey Rourke before writing his memoirs. 

Yoruba History: The Alaafin

The title Alaafin loosely translates to “man of the palace”. Originally, it was the title given to the Emperor of the Oyo Empire, but with the fall of the Oyo Empire, it became the title of the ruler of Oyo. In the earliest days of the Oyo Empire, the eldest son succeeded his father in becoming the Alaafin. He performed royal functions, and essentially reigned with his father under the title of Aremo (the heir apparent). The Aremo and the Alaafin had equal power over the life and death of the Alaafin’s subjects. There were also some recorded cases of the Aremo killing his father in order to attain full power.

Eventually, it was made into law that as the Aremo reigned with his father, he must also die with his father. This law had the effect of quelling incidences of patricide as the law required that the Aremo commit suicide upon the death of the Alaafin. This continued to be the law of the land until 1858, when the law was repealed by Alaafin Atiba. Since then, the Aremo has been eligible to become the Alaafin if found eligible by the kingmakers.


100 Years of Beauty in Nigeria

I decided to do a version of 100 years of beauty (and fashion) in Nigeria inspired by Cut. People were requesting they should do certain cultures and nations so this is my version for Nigeria as a Nigerian. Nigeria is quite diverse, more so than many other places, so these looks are a gloss over general styles and trends. So my observations are as follows. [+] are links to the images.

1910s: Birth of ‘nationhood’; Northern Nigeria and Southern Nigeria Protectorates, enforced by the British government on diverse societies in the early 1900s, are combined by Lugard to form a single Nigeria. There are still major movements against the British Imperialists so fashion is still very indigenous. [+]

1920s: Women pick up western clothing more widely, especially for work. Flowing gowns and one-pieces. ‘Indigenous’ hairstyles. Wider negotiations and tension between indigenous people and the British government over their land, property and rights. Aba Women’s Riots. [+]

1930s: Children who have grown up entirely under the British are in their teens and adulthood. Western education has spread wider, many more are in the civil service. [+]

1940s-50s: Independence movements and sentiments are strong (across Africa), especially in universities. Nationalistic sentiment transcends. Indigenous attire is modernised. Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart releases. Discovery of oil in the Niger Delta. [+]

1960s: Independence | Nigeria-Biafra war. 🌅 [+]

1970s: Nation building after the war, Black Power and Pride worldwide influences a return to more complex indigenous hair styles, especially with thread. Military government seizes power. [+]

1980s: Military government in power, although Nigeria is more stable, including economically, shown in fashion, ‘lacy’ indigenous styles. Heavy dependence on oil from the Niger Delta. Gold. Corruption under the military government. [+]

1990s: ‘Rich’ flashy styles from ‘big women’ and ‘big men’s’ wives. Many linked to corruption. Ken Saro-Wiwa, activist for the Ogoni in the oil-producing Niger Delta, is executed. Sani Abacha dies. Military government topples. Rise of Nollywood (as we know it) with ‘home video’ cassettes. [+]

2000s: Nigeria tries democracy again. Niger Delta is an environmental and social disaster. MEND. Bakassi Boys, òdíèshí! Bakassi Gone. Fashion practical, dressed down, braids and natural hair extensions. Nigerian entertainment industry ekes out. [+]

2010s: Explosion of Nigeria entertainment ‘Afro-beat’ (Afro-pop, Afro-rap) and Nollywood (films) spread across Africa and the diaspora. Boko Haram in the north east being subdued by the Nigerian military. Glam, Brazilian weaves and lace fronts, High fashion designer brands, Blackbooris, etc. [+]


starbucks (@starbucks) logo traces roots back to Africa.

Info via citizins (@citizins) 

When you see that Starbucks logo, you probably think the same thing as me: “There’s that ‘smiling mermaid’ logo, there must be some good, but overpriced, coffee nearby”. Well what isn’t known to the world is that this is a picture of Yemaya, also know through out West Africa and the Caribbean as Yemoja,Yemowo, Mami Wata, Janaína, LaSiren (in Vodou) is an Orisha – said to be a Goddess of the traditional Yoruba religion that was brought by the enslaved Africans of what is now Nigeria to the west. She is the patron of women, in particular, pregnant women. When slaves were transported across the ocean, it was said to be Yemaya who protected them on their journey and kept them safe. She is kind and giving. She takes a long time to anger but when she does, watch out, you have a hurricane on your hands. She is said to be the “mother whose children number as the fish in the sea” and that is why she is presented as a two-tailed mermaid.Yemaya is said to bring forth and protect life through all the highs and lows, even during the worst atrocities that can be suffered. She reminds women to take time out for themselves, to nurture their own needs and to respect their deserved position in life.

Happy Black History month everyone!


Africans were performing many advanced medical procedures long before they had been conceived in Europe this is just one of many examples.

The British traveler R.W. Felkin who reported this noted that the healer used banana wine to semi-intoxicate the woman and to cleanse his hands and her abdomen prior to surgery. He used a midline incision and applied cautery to minimize hemorrhaging. He massaged the uterus to make it contract but did not suture it; the abdominal wound was pinned with iron needles and dressed with a paste prepared from roots. The patient recovered well, and Felkin concluded that this technique was well-developed and had clearly been employed for a long time. Similar reports come from Rwanda, where botanical preparations were also used to anesthetize the patient and promote wound healing.

Reference: “Notes on Labour in Central Africa” published in the Edinburgh Medical Journal, volume 20, April 1884, pages 922-930.

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the amount of detailed information that we have on who financed slave voyages, where they went, who they captured, which African leaders cooperated with which traders, how many trips they made, who captained and manned the ships, which companies insured the human cargo, how many Africans were expected to die during the voyage, what diseases they usually succumbed to while on-board, the ratio of human cargo to dry goods that would net the ship the highest profit margin, which countries dominated the trade during which decades, which countries ran illegal slave trading ships after the trade was supposed to be outlawed… NONE OF THAT IS A MYSTERY!

If you think that THE CASE FOR REPARATIONS for American Black people on slavery alone - not to mention all they endured AFTER - is absurd… think again! 

If your immediate thought is "Who is going to pay whom?“ or ”Why am I responsible for what happened way back then?“ or even ”Why do those of us whose families came to America after 1865 even have to pay attention to this topic?“… then you need to educate yourself. Badly. 

Those aren’t necessarily dumb questions to ask… they’re simply THE WRONG QUESTIONS and really have nothing to do with what reparations is about. Not on the individual level, anyway. Do yourself a favor and if for no other reason than to be able to argue against reparations INTELLIGENTLY… READ THIS:

…because sounding dumb in the midst of the information age is not cool. especially on such a serious topic.


Mahdi Ehsaei’s “Afro-Iran – The Unknown Minority“ Photobook is Now Available for Purchase.

Earlier this month, we talked to German-Iranian photographer Mahdi Ehsaei about the history of Africans in Iran and his experience creating his photo series documenting Afro-Iranians in southern Iran.

After publishing his photos online, his book “Afro-Iran The Unknown Minority” is now available for purchase. The first of its kind, publication features a series of 60 portraits and mood pictures, in colour, as well as essays that explore the historical and cultural significance of an often unacknowledged minority that has shaped culture in both southern Iran and other parts of the country. It also describes the more than 500 year old history of Africans in Iran, from enslavement by traders up to their emancipation in 1928.

Support the Afro-Iran project on Kickstarter and receive exclusive rewards. You can also purchase the book directly on Mahdi’s website

Read our interview with him.

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Yasuke African Samurai of the Japanese Warlord Nobunaga Oda.

“Japan is not a place one would usually associate with immigrants from Africa or the Caribbean. Yet in the late 16th century Japan’s most powerful warlord, Oda Nobunaga, had a African page named Yasuke it is belived that Yasuke was either a Makua originally from Mozambique or from somewhere in the Congo region. Yasuke was not only a cultural curiosity but also served as Nobunaga’s bodyguard and was granted the prestigious rank of Samurai.

Yasuke arrived in Japan in 1579 as the servant of the Italian Jesuit Alessandro Valignano, who had been appointed the Visitor (inspector) of the Jesuit missions in the Indies, i.e. S. and E. Asia, an extremely high position, so Yasuke must have been quite trustworthy. He accompanied Valignano when the latter came to the capital area in March 1581 and caused something of a sensation. In one event, several people were crushed to death while clamouring to get a look at him. Nobunaga heard about him and expressed a desire to see him. Suspecting the black color of his skin to be paint, Nobunaga had him strip from the waist up and made him scrub his skin.

 We do not know this Yasuke’s original Makua name but the Japanese called him Yasuke (彌介), the reason for this name is unknown as it does not have a clear meaning and that it is most likely a “Japanization” of his actual name. 

He was apparently 6ft 2in and would have towered over the Japanese of the day. Nobunaga first heard of Yasuke when the news reached him in 1581 of the great crush that had occurred when Valignano had brought him to Kyoto where his skin colour and height attracted a huge crowd. Nobunaga ordered the Jesuit to bring Yasuke to his court so that he could see this sensation in the flesh.

Upon seeing Yasuke, Nobunaga allegedly ordered him stripped to the waist and scrubbed believing that his skin was painted.  Japanese sources described Yasuke as “looking between the age of 24 or 25, black like an ox, healthy and good looking, and possessing the strength of 10 men. Nobunaga was further intrigued by the fact that Yasuke could speak Japanese (albeit not perfectly) and ordered Valignano to leave Yasuke in his care when the Jesuit prepared to leave again.

Yasuke became a permanent fixture in Nobunaga’s retinue, his size and strength acting as a deterrent to assassination not to mention a flavour of exoticism to accompany the warlord’s other Western possessions. Apparently Nobunaga became so fond of Yasuke that rumours abounded that the slave was going to be made a Daimyo (a Japanese land-owning lord). These rumours were proven wrong, however, Yasuke was given the honour of being made a member of the samurai class, a rare honour among foreigners. “ 

Read more here. 

You can read more about Yasuke here:

Important note: Obviously this is not a 16th century photo because there weren’t any cameras back then. The people in this photo were just stage actors who posed for this shot.

Dahomey’s Warrior Women

Speaking of West Africa, the Dahomey Warrior Women involves a fascinating history that spans nearly 200 years. It was during this time that the elite squad of female warriors fought and died for the border rights and inter-tribal issues in the ancient kingdom of Dahomey.

These women, who outranked their male counterparts, were given far more privileges, including the ability to  come and go from the palaces as they pleased (unlike the men). They were so revered for their warrior prowess, The Smithsonian explains, that men were taught to keep their distance:

“Recruiting women into the Dahomean army was not especially difficult, despite the requirement to climb thorn hedges and risk life and limb in battle. Most West African women lived lives of forced drudgery. Gezo’s female troops lived in his compound and were kept well supplied with tobacco, alcohol and slaves – as many as 50 to each warrior, according to the noted traveler Sir Richard Burton, who visited Dahomey in the 1860s. And “when amazons walked out of the palace,” notes Alpern, “they were preceded by a slave girl carrying a bell. The sound told every male to get out of their path, retire a certain distance, and look the other way.” To even touch these women meant death.”

Yet as colonialist ambitions grew in the region, the Dahomey female warriors eventually grew sparse. Fierce combat missions to crush the independent kingdom eventually succeeded, and in the 1940s, it is said that the last of the female warriors died.


“I Am Khama”: Animated Film Tells Story of Tswana King Who Stood Up to British Imperialism.

“It is 1895 and Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, governs half the World. King Khama, a charismatic African ruler, is furious. The British Government is about to give control of his country, The Bechuanaland Protectorate, to Cecil Rhodes, the richest diamond tycoon in the World, who will remove Khama and put his people under the shackles of colonial rule. Khama rushes to England accompanied by two eccentric kings and a young white schoolboy who insists he’s African, and loathes the English. The three kings make a whirlwind tour of Britain trying to gather enough support to save their country ‘for our children and our children’s children’. Success! Support floods in from all over the land. But then? Disaster! Khama discovers that all is lost unless he can discover Rhodes’ real plan: to use Bechuanaland as a platform, attack Johannesburg and steal all its gold. Khama discovers the plot and threatens exposure. The Government is forced to surrender. Khama goes to Windsor Castle and charms Queen Victoria, who formalises the new agreement. Khama has saved his country for the future. Bechuanaland is now called The Republic of Botswana, and is Africa’s success story.”

Joining the emerging trend of animated films set in African countries during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and European colonial eras is the upcoming motion picture I Am Khama.

Written by Mark Macauley, and brought to life through the talents of Ben and William animation studios, this feature length film tells the story of King Khama III of Botswana (then Bechuanaland) and his campaign against British imperialist Cecil Rhodes. The film stars actors John Kani (Chief Batwen), John Cleese (Sir Henry Loch), Colin Salmon (Khama), Conleth Hill (Cecil Rhodes) and Steve Toussaint (Sekgoma). 

As the synopsis above explains, Khama travelled to Britain in 1895 along with two other chiefs from neighbouring ethnic groups to convince Queen Victoria to protect their people from economic plunder by Cecil Rhodes’ British South African Company to the north, and white settler demands from the south. It is believed that if Khama had been unable to successfully lobby the British authorities for ‘protectorate’ status (the lesser of two evils, of course), much of today’s Botswana would have been incorporated into - and destined to the same fate as - its colonies Rhodesia and South Africa.

Quite frankly, the sooner films telling stories of the plunder of the African continent like this make it into the mainstream, the better. The accessible medium of animation has appeal across various demographics, creating the wide reach needed for important historical storytelling of this kind. Outraged public reaction to the BBC’s recently-aired two-part documentary Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners has shown us just how poorly Britain’s horrific history of enslavement of Africans and colonial past is known and understood in the UK today. Presented by British-Nigerian historian David Olusoga, part one of the series delved into the ways in which the British economy was built on the kidnapping and enslavement of people from countries along the Western coast of Africa. And it’s not just TV documentaries causing a stir. Earlier this year we witnessed an outcry against prevailing symbols of British colonial imprint in Africa when the legacy of Cecil Rhodes was successfully challenged by a student-led group of activists in South Africa. The campaign went on to gain support throughout the country and went viral globally.  

Unfortunately, history that casts a light on the full scale of atrocities committed by the British is not a compulsory part of our education curriculum, and some imperialist proponents continue to be glorified in popular culture. One example is wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who has been in the media even more than usual this year following special events marking the 50th anniversary of his state funeral in 1965. Many Brits would however be surprised to hear Churchill ordered the reallocation of food from already malnourished Indian civilians to well-supplied British soldiers, leading to the 1943 Bengal Famine. Around four million people died.

Though it is still in post-production and is scheduled for a 2018 release date, stories like I Am Khama are an important part of re-writing history from the perspective of those whose lives and experiences were erased and marginalised, rather than that of the oppressors and colonisers. Accounts like these may be well known in countries like Botswana, but for many of people in the UK, they are unknown.

Watch the trailer here.

Alice McCool is an anti-corruption campaigner and masters student at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. You can follow her at @McCoolingtons. Views expressed on here and on there are personal.

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How ancient Africans were the first nerds: Birth of technology traced back 70,000 years to the continent’s southern tip.

Modern human technology began more than 70,000 years ago in South Africa before spreading to communities elsewhere, a new study claims.

It was there that our ancestors made the first bone tools, the first abstract art, the first jewellery and probably the first stone tipped spears and arrows, research shows.

The claims, based on archaeological findings over the past decade, contradict the widely held belief that modern human behaviour originated in Europe about 40,000 years ago.

The first nerds? A reconstruction of a Homo sapiens hunting party from the BBC documentary Planet of the Apeman. New research traces the birth of technology 70,000 years to southern Africa

They chime with findings published just last month which suggested that the development of long-range weapons in Africa was the technological breakthrough which allowed humans to become the dominant species.

Click here for the full article.

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